Santa Fe Opera baritone Anthony Michaels-Moore returns as the voice of Zozobra this year.
ANTHONY MICHAELS-MOORE'S VOICE HOLDS AUDIENCES SPELLBOUND. But the Santa Fe Opera baritone seemed destined for a military career before becoming the first British winner of the Luciano Pavarotti International Voice Competition in 1985. During his celebrated career, Michaels-Moore has taken on more than 60 leading roles—including Rigoletto, Falstaff, and Otello’s Iago—in more than 700 performances. Opera News hailed him as “one of the most gorgeous voices on the stage today.” He and his wife, Emily Doyle Moore (Santa Fe Opera’s director of media and public relations), and their two children divide their time between the German lake town of Prien am Chiemsee and Santa Fe, where he’s wowed opera audiences since 2004. Last year, he took on a new character when he gave voice to Zozobra, moaning and groaning as the 50-foot marionette met his fiery fate during the Fiesta de Santa Fe. Michaels-Moore so enjoyed the debut, he’s returning for the 97th burning on September 3.
The man who had done Zozobra’s voice for 18 years was having health issues. I was asked by the Kiwanis Club if I would be interested.
I always enjoy doing stories and voices for my children. There’s a different voice for the monster and a different voice for the princesses. It seemed a natural progression to do a different voice for a local monster.
Zozobra’s very confident. He’s egotistical, he’s sure of himself. Even when he burns, he’s defiant. He doesn’t give up.
He’s like all the best villains in the movies. You just know he’s going to come back.
My dad was the conductor of the local choral society in Essex, about 20 miles from London. I grew up listening to the Messiah, the Passions.
I sang as a boy soloist with the choir if they needed someone for Mendelssohn’s Elijah or the Fauré Requiem.
When my voice changed, around 12 or 13, I sang with my dad’s choir, first as a tenor, then as a baritone, then as a bass.
I played bass guitar in a pop group, so I would play working men’s clubs on Friday or Saturday nights.
I always sang. But I never believed or realized that I had the potential of making a career of it.
When I was 18, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I went into the British Army as an officer, and they sponsored me to go to Newcastle University. At Newcastle, I began to enter local competitions and win them.
I realized I’d made a catastrophic mistake. I didn’t want to be an officer, even though I would have been quite good at it. I wanted to be a singer.
My favorite role to sing is Iago or Rigoletto. lago because it’s incredible the way you can play this evil man, and it’s all about color and inflection and timing. With Rigoletto, it’s all about vocal beauty and long melodic lines.
In 2009, I was singing in a Santa Fe Opera performance of The Letter when a ferocious storm started with wind, rain, and lightning. The final scene was a dinner party with a long table set with a white tablecloth, plates, and silverware, plus a candelabra in the center. The tablecloth and the items on it began to rise off the table as if there was a tornado onstage. All the principal singers realized what was happening, abandoned the staging, and came to lean on the table to hold everything in place, singing their hearts out.
The audience gave us the most splendid applause.
There’s something deeply satisfying about being up onstage, performing, and the excitement of sharing that event with the audience and my colleagues. It’s one of the best things in life.
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